Grief is an incredibly intricate and complex thing to make sense of as something that feels so universal yet so deeply personal and particular. Shock, numbness, anger, sadness and confusion are all emotional elements of grief, but grief can also manifest through feelings and behaviours that can look very different depending on the bereaved person and the nature and scope of their relationship with their lost loved one. We tend to conceptualise grief as something that occurs in stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance – meaning that the form in which we experience grief fluctuates with the passing of time.
The way we feel about or deal with our grief may be surprising to us, or it may not. There’s no right or wrong way to feel because each case is unique. Inevitably, losing a loved one, whether suddenly and unexpectedly or expectedly after an illness, will have an impact on our emotional well-being. Looking after yourself following a bereavement may feel completely overwhelming or impossible, the world might feel alien and hopeless or even cruel. There is no manual for navigating life following the death of somebody close to you, and figuring it out can be scary and painful, but it’s also possible that finding ways to celebrate and commemorate a lost loved one’s life can bring hope, positivity and comfort in unexpected and welcome ways.
In this post, I wanted to outline some important aspects and elements of dealing with grief that are conducive to positive emotional well-being. I know those two things seem very contradictory, but I want to highlight that there is always hope in times of darkness.
(1) Having a support system: This could be family members, friends, neighbours, the people in your community, and professional support such as a therapist or grief counsellor. Having a good support network around while dealing with grief is paramount. The people in your support system might also have been affected by the death and be able to relate to you on an emotional level. It may involve asking a close friend to do a food shop for you, help you to make any funeral arrangements or help you sort through your loved one’s belongings. It’s common for people to rally together and offer any kind of support they can, however this can sometimes be left vague and it is useful to be specific with your requests and the type of support you need, if you’re able to do so. You might hear the phrase “if you need anything, just give me a call” a lot following the death of a loved one, but the likelihood is that as a bereaved person (or anyone in fact) you probably won’t feel like reaching out of your own accord. Similarly, if you are hoping to help somebody experiencing a loss, be specific and direct when offering your support. Try and arrange a firm date to pop over or go out for a coffee or offer to help with a specific task.
(2) Talking about how you feel: Although it may seem like the easier option, keeping everything inside will only prolong and intensify pain. Talking to friends, family or a counsellor will allow you to verbalise your emotions, confront and recognise what it is you are feeling and experiencing so that it becomes an external object you can begin to tackle collaboratively, and not an unidentified internal monster eating away at you. You could also try journaling to get your thoughts and feelings out if you don’t feel quite ready to talk face to face with somebody else, for a sense of relief. Allowing yourself to feel and say things is instrumental to begin healing.
(3) Routine: Experiencing a loss will no doubt impact our daily routines. Our routines provide us with a sense of structure and normality, and will undergo big changes or disruptions in times of crisis. Our sleeping patterns, eating habits and any other integral parts of our daily functioning might suffer, feeling insignificant in contrast to these huge feelings of loss and grief. In order to keep on looking after our bodies and taking care of our emotional well-being during these times, write down and try and stick to a basic routine including: when you wake up and go to sleep, time spent at work, mealtimes, household chores and activities. Eating and sleeping properly are the basics of self-care, allowing us to function physically and keep our moods stable so working these into a somewhat structured routine after a loss is important.
(4) Time: You’ve probably heard the expression that time heals all wounds and you might think it’s a bit of a cliché. With the initial shock and sting of losing a loved one, it can feel in the moments after like you will never recover or heal from this loss and the grief that it brings. As time passes and we begin to adjust, becoming familiar with how life looks and feels, the pain will transform and – although it may never completely disappear – it will take up space in our lives differently. Initially, it will feel raw and foreign but it will ease. There will be good days and bad days and it probably won’t feel like a linear journey, especially at the very beginning, but ultimately it will become more familiar and easier to cope with on a daily basis.
If you’re struggling with your emotional well-being and taking care of yourself after experiencing a loss and this is something you would like to chat about further, you can book a discovery call with me here. I offer 121 consultations and would be more than happy to chat with you to help you start taking the steps to heal.
Thank you for reading!
Stay safe and stay tuned